Ahmadinejad plays innocent: I would never nuke Israel!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday became the first Iranian leader to visit Egypt since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, and he used the occasion to try and re-brand himself as a pragmatic president who wished no harm to the Jewish state.

Following the Islamic Revolution, Egypt gave sanctuary to Iran's deposed shah, straining relations between the Cairo and the new Islamic regime in Tehran. The rift was made wider by the fact that Iran was the new epicenter of Shia Islam, while Cairo had long been one of the primary centers of Sunni Islam.

But the two sides have been drawing closer together since the hijacking of Egypt's pro-democracy revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood.

After appearing hand-in-hand with the clerics who run Cairo's famed Al-Azhar University, Ahmadinejad told Egyptian media that Iran is already a nuclear power.

"From now on, the world should treat Iran as a nuclear state," Ahmadinejad told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. He refused to say whether or not Iran was building nuclear weapons, or simply possessed the ability to do so.

Whatever the case, Ahmadinejad insisted that his nation was "not planning a military strike" against Israel, but would respond severely if Israel attacked first.

Israelis viewed the Iranian leader's remarks with much skepticism, considering that on numerous occasions over the past several years he has openly called for the removal of the Jewish state.

On Monday, Ahmadinejad told Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV that "the time of the Zionists is over."

At Sunday's cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his nation simply "cannot live" with a nuclear Iran, and stressed that the main focus of his new government will be preventing the Islamic Republic from attaining nuclear weapons.

According to a report produced by five American nonproliferation experts, Netanyahu and Israel might not have much time to act.

The experts explained that within one year, "based on the current trajectory of Iran's nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability," meaning it would have enough enriched uranium to produce one or more nuclear bombs without detection.

Former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said there could be even less time than that.

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies on Monday, Yadlin noted that Iran is already in possession of "all of the necessary means to manufacture a nuclear weapon as soon as it chooses to do so."

The moment Iran makes the decision to field a nuclear weapon, it will be able to do so within 4-6 months, Yadlin stated.

But, Yadlin argued that Iran has yet to cross that red line, and until it does, Israel should continue to help the West to pursue a diplomatic solution.

Yadlin said Israel must take into consideration that US President Barack Obama is even less likely to join or even support an Israeli strike on Iran following the appointments of John Kerry as Secretary of State and Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Both Kerry and Hagel are opposed to the use of military force to halt Iran's nuclear program.

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